See how WT will stage two British comedies simultaneously on adjoining stages

Posted by Chip Chandler on
Dakota Brown and Marlee Wall star in WT's "House and Garden."
Photo by Callie Hisek

"House and Garden"

By Chip Chandler — Digital Content Producer

It's hard enough to stage one play at a time. With its latest production, West Texas A&M University will be staging two plays simultaneously in adjoining theaters.

Wait, it gets even harder: The action in each comedy feeds off the other, with characters popping in and out of each show. Oh, and it rains. On stage. Both stages, in fact.

That's the challenge facing the young actors and their directors for Alan Ayckbourn's House and Garden, opening Thursday for a two-weekend run in both the Branding Iron Theatre (Garden) and the Happy State Bank Studio Theatre (House) on the WT campus. Performances are set for 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and Feb. 16 to 18, and 2:30 p.m. Feb. 19. Tickets are $12 for one play for adults, $8 seniors and students, and free for WT students, staff and faculty, and $6 for the additional play if purchased at the box office or by calling 806-651-2804.

"I've done some huge musicals, but nothing like this," said director Royal R. Brantley. "It's been an absolutely joyous challenge. This has been very seamless."

In the farces, British couples are putting on an annual garden party amidst the collapse of marriages and other romantic complications. Teddy Platt (Dakota Brown) is carrying on with neighbor Joanna Mace (Allison Simpson), the wife of his best friend Giles (Oakley Farrar), while Teddy's own wife Trish (Kallie Scott) stews. Plus, the Maces' son Jake (Jax Ebert) is madly in love with the Platts' daughter Sally (Cheyenne Haynes). Meanwhile, Barry and Lindy Love (Ryan T. Land and Sydney Buschmann) are trying to put together their annual garden party outside as they welcome the arrival of French actress Lucille Cadeau (Marlee Wall) and political adviser Gavin Ryng-Mayne (Sean Evan Jones).

Gavin (Sean Evan Jones) charms Sally (Cheyenne Haynes) as Jake (Jax Ebert) looks on in "House and Garden," opening Thursday at West Texas A&M University.
Photo by Callie Hisek

"The beauty of the writing is that each play stands on its own," Brantley said. "(But) it is our hope that people will see one and like what they see and want to know more."

The actors weren't entirely sure what they were getting into when the show was announced.

"I thought, 'Why are both spaces being used? It's one show in two theaters?' I didn't get it," said Scott, a sophomore from New Deal. "It took me a minute to actually grasp the concept. ... I read it over the summer and wow, it does actually work."

But it's been smooth sailing thus far, said Simpson, a senior from Shallowwater.

"It's so great that we have amazing directors and assistant directors and designers," she said. "The actors don't have to worry. Once the process starts, we didn't have to worry about (the staging), which is pretty great."

The staging is enough of a headache for Brantley, his two assistant directors, his two stage directors and his technical director, John Landon.

Work began in April, as Brantley broke down each play by scene to figure out where his actors would need to be and when. Then began Landon's job in designing not only the interior of a British manor house, but also a garden large enough to hole a party — complete with a maypole. Oh yeah, and he had to figure out how to make it rain on both stages.

"I enjoy plays and production designs that are difficult, that are challenging," Landon said. "Every play presents a challenge. That makes the job interesting. It's one of the reasons I like what I do."

WT is likely one of the few places in the country that can mount Ayckbourn's comedies thanks to its adjoining theater spaces inside the Sybil B. Harrington Fine Arts Complex. That made it even more appealing to Brantley and Landon.

But ultimately, Brantley said, the comedies were irresistible because of Ayckbourn's scripts.

"The more I read, the more impressed I was with the meticulous writing of Alan Ayckbourn," Brantley said. "These are really well-crafted characters."

 

 

 

 

 

Chip Chandler is a digital content producer for Panhandle PBS. He can be contacted at Chip.Chandler@actx.edu, at @chipchandler1 on Twitter and on Facebook.

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